Telstra subsidiary axes jobs in Network demand downturn

Telstra's construction arm NDC will cut jobs and close work sites throughout country Victoria as demand for new networks drops.

NDC informed the Communication Workers Union that it intends to axe 53 more jobs across the region.

A downturn in demand for new networks has necessitated the cuts, according to NDC officials.

Stephen Whitworth, NDC public affairs manager, said, "There's been a sizeable downturn in demand for new networks. We're doing 30 per cent of the work now compared to 12 months ago, so the demand is not there.

"The work is not likely to be there in foreseeable future so we are putting our resources in line with our work," Whitworth said.

However, Steve Booth, CWU organiser, said he believes the cuts in NDC funding is part of Telstra's plan to sell off its subsidiary.

"Privitisation didn't get through Federal Parliament. This is an agenda to prepare NDC for sale as part of privitisation by stealth," he said.

The cuts come after a hike in prices for mobile phone and ADSL services.

"Telstra jacks up prices and then cuts funding to NDC for the network installation. NDC is not getting enough work from Telstra, because Telstra decided to refuse to upgrade its network, so people are left high and dry," Booth said. "I find that strange to say the least. Especially after Telstra has been raising the price of mobile phones and ADSL to improve the network, yet cutting hundreds and thousands from funding to pay for the improvements."

It's also a blow to regional Australia.

"Telstra should put some money into country Victoria and bring it to the same level as the metropolitan service," Booth said.

The latest cuts will bring the total job cuts to more than 250 from the Telstra subsidiary in Victoria alone in the past six months, mostly due to Telstra funding cutbacks.

"This is after many of [the workers] having been sitting at home for the past three to six months with nothing to do and on full pay," said Whitworth.

Whitworth said NDC presents its workers with two different options: a voluntary career transition service or compulsory redundancy, which contrasts fairly well to other industry downturns. With a voluntary redundancy, the worker will receive full entitlements and can stay or leave to look for another job. With a compulsory redundancy, they stay on the books for another four months and still get their full entitlements if they haven't got another job.

According to Booth, all the cuts are compulsory this round.

"They've all been told there no recourse to redeployment within Telstra and NDC. It's all compulsory redundancies which is different to the other recent times when workers have been made redundant," Booth said.

On top of the cuts, Booth said NDC informed the CWU that a number of sites are to be closed, including Bairnsdale, Benalla, Hamilton, Hersham, Wangaratta and Warrnambool.

The union has also been informed that in February there will be a further round of redundancies in the major Victorian regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Morwell and Shepparton. No numbers have been provided at this stage.

The CWU will be holding discussions with members throughout country Victoria, in the next few weeks and will also be seeking further negotiations with NDC on the redundancies.

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